It just came across from ESPN that the Steelers are benching FS Ryan Clark for the game in Denver. Clark has a sickle cell trait that almost killed him the first time he played in the high altitude of Denver, CO. The next time the Steelers visited the Broncos, Tomlin benched Clark as a preventative measure of his premature death. Clark expressed his desire to play when asked last week, but the docs and staff have the final say.
This is a smart move from the Steelers and sends a tone to the NFL that the team really does care about player safety. Even though Clark ‘should be’ fine to play because he lost the organs that would be effected most by the sickle cell trait the last time he played, Tomlin and team doctors will not take a chance. Rightly decided. No one’s life is worth putting in jeopardy for a football game – something Concussion-gate has brought to the forefront of conversation.
Ryan Mundy will fill in for Clark. Mundy has played in dime packages over the course of the season and has very little rust to shake off. Admittedly, this is quite a blow to the defense. Not necessarily the passing defense. Clark as FS is really more effective on run blitzes and chasing down ball carries that make their way to the second level or receivers who are already on a run after a reception. His speed and tackling ability makes him the ideal pursuant and less of a cover guy. Still, missing our biggest tackler on the team will hurt.
This without a doubt puts more pressure on the linebackers to plug up holes in the line to keep Willis McGahee from breaking into the secondary. A tall task considering the run defense hasn’t been that great, and guys like Farrior and Foote continue to struggle tackling ball carries in the open. With Tim Tebow also a running threat, the Steelers could have a rough day in containing big runs.
Clark will probably travel with the team and cheer from the sidelines. Sorry, big fella. You will be missed. I know it’s probably killing you not to be able to play… but it would probably kill you for real if you played. Inspire your defense from the sidelines so that you can play the following week against the Pats or Ratbirds.
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